Weight Loss Drugs Are Supposed to be the Pharma Industry’s New Kingmaker, but Americans Are Leaving Scripts Unfilled - The Average Joe

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    Weight Loss Drugs Are Supposed to be the Pharma Industry’s New Kingmaker, but Americans Are Leaving Scripts Unfilled

    Noah Weidner

    July 5, 2024

    Wall Street is high on AI, semiconductors, and weight loss… Can you find the odd one out? Over the last year, weight loss drugs like Zepbound and Wegovy have become cash cows for pharmaceutical giants Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Novo Nordisk ($NVO). These drugs are also showing promise in treating other conditions like sleep disorders and substance addiction. However, despite their promises, a new development is hindering further gains.

    Read the label: Researchers say that weight loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy must be taken for life to be effective, but many Americans are already scaling back on their use of these drugs. A new study by Blue Health Intelligence of 170K patients found that many Americans quit GLP-1 drugs before achieving meaningful weight loss. Misinformation, insurance coverage issues, and side effects are to blame for this poor retention.

    • In another survey by Verywell Health, 67% of respondents said they plan to stop taking obesity medications in the next year — with most patients citing safety concerns.
    • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that while “adverse events” have been limited, side effects like nausea and vomiting are common — and a new study even warns that these drugs could cause blindness.

    Too much of a good thing (can sometimes be bad)

    Pharmaceutical titans are scaling production to meet the lifetime demand for these miracle drugs. However, a myriad of setbacks are pushing Americans toward more dangerous alternatives — forcing investors to recalibrate their expectations.

    • GLP-1 drugs regularly cost between $900 to $1.3K every four weeks, and many insurers are unwilling to cover them, deeming them not medically necessary.
    • As a result, telehealth pharmacies like Hims and Hers ($HIMS) and Roman have started selling off-brand versions of these drugs — sometimes at a tenth of the cost of the branded drugs.

    Buyer beware: Compounded versions of these drugs sold by third parties have been shown to have quality issues — and could boast more severe side effects. The FDA has even warned against their use, suggesting patients “not use a compounded drug if an approved drug is available to treat a patient.” Despite this, the approved drug may be out of reach for many due to its high cost. This means patients might have to wait until the drugs go generic (or hope that a Senate investigation and a White House callout result in lower prices).

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